A HERO pilot crash-landed his plane into the sea to avoid hitting people on a crowded beach.

The pilot, 53, escaped with minor injuries after being pulled from the plane ditched into the sea.

A report into the crash said the Piper Challenger aircraft suffered an engine failure before crashing into the waves at popular Whitesands Bay near St Davids in September.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch's report said: "Shortly after reaching cruising level, the pilot noticed a vibration and the engine began to

run roughly.

"Selecting full throttle and carburettor heat did not resolve the loss of power and the aircraft was unable to maintain level flight.

"The pilot then focussed on making a forced landing.

"His intention was to land on a beach, but due to the presence of people, the pilot instead landed along the water’s edge."

The experienced pilot - who had 339 hours of flying time under his belt - had recently received coaching on conducting forced landings.

Ian Price, owner of a nearby B&B, told how the beach was a hotspot for surfers and families.

He said: "I arrived at the beach after the crash happened and there was a lot of emergency services there - coastguard, police, ambulance.

"Someone was being carried out by the lifeboat.

"It's lucky it wasn't a week ago when the beach was much busier over school holidays. Today it's been quite windy so there weren't as many people around."